The Minerals Management Service (MMS) – the agency with responsibility for regulating oil drilling – has been totally ineffective and has to share some of the blame for the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact MMS, which now has a brand new name, has literally been in bed with the oil industry. Government investigators found that MMS regulators were partying and actually sleeping with oil company representatives. The failures to promulgate strong regulatory measures and to monitor and inspect the deep water drilling operations are inexcusable. BP, and I suspect all other companies drilling in the Gulf, have pretty much operated without any real regulation for years.
We badly need an entirely new regulator and it will take more than a name change. The regulators must be independent and willing to do the job of regulating a powerful industry. Local communities also must be given a role in ensuring the safety of oil drilling operations. But change is never easy when Big Oil is involved. The power and influence of the giant oil companies is vast and far reaching and, as a result, they have pretty much had their way in Washington. It’s evident that Big Oil’s lobbyists have ways of getting to public officials in all branches of government at both the state and federal levels. It’s time to curb their influence.
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